Pub­li­ca­tions

Court rules that the min­i­mum lot size devel­op­ment stan­dard applies to stra­ta subdivision

Why is this deci­sion important?

Many Appli­cants seek to stra­ta sub­di­vide mul­ti dwelling hous­ing or dual occu­pan­cies as a com­po­nent of a devel­op­ment appli­ca­tion, or after con­struc­tion of the res­i­den­tial accom­mo­da­tion. Some LEPs have spe­cif­ic pro­vi­sions about stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion in par­tic­u­lar zones, how­ev­er in this deci­sion the focus was clause 4.1 of the Willough­by LEP 2012. Clause 4.1 is adopt­ed from the Stan­dard Instru­ment – Prin­ci­pal Local Envi­ron­men­tal Plan by most LEPs. Com­mis­sion­er Dixon held that unless a pro­posed sub­di­vi­sion is a lot of an exist­ing stra­ta plan, the pro­posed sub­di­vi­sion will be sub­ject to the min­i­mum lot size standard.

Back­ground

The Appli­cant in these pro­ceed­ings sought devel­op­ment con­sent from Willough­by City Coun­cil (Coun­cil) to sub­di­vide an exist­ing two-storey house into two dual occu­pan­cy units. Each unit had an area of 300m2. Clause 4.1 of the rel­e­vant local envi­ron­men­tal plan­ning instru­ment (Willough­by Local Envi­ron­men­tal Plan 2012 (WLEP)) was 650m².

The Applicant’s argument

The Appli­cant argued that clause 4.1 was direct­ed to the sub­di­vi­sion of land, and not to stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion. It con­tend­ed that clause 4.1(4) of WLEP did not apply to pro­posed stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion and clause 4.1(4) of WLEP had the effect of mak­ing the pro­posed stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion exempt from the min­i­mum lot size devel­op­ment standard.

The Council’s argument

Coun­cil sub­mit­ted that based on the Applicant’s con­struc­tion of clause 4.1, any devel­op­ment appli­ca­tion could over­come the min­i­mum sub­di­vi­sion lot size con­trol for dual occu­pan­cy by propos­ing stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion. Coun­cil focused on the words indi­vid­ual lots in a stra­ta plan” in clause 4.1(4) also relied on the def­i­n­i­tion of sub­di­vi­sion of land’ in sec­tion 4B(2)(b) of the Envi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning and Assess­ment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) to assert that clause 4.1 was direct­ed to both Tor­rens title sub­di­vi­sion and stra­ta subdivision.

Court’s deci­sion

The Court agreed with the Council’s argu­ment. Com­mis­sion­er Dixon (“regret­tably” at [35]) deter­mined that because the Appli­cant did not have an exist­ing stra­ta plan, the pro­posed stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion did not meet the exemp­tion under the min­i­mum lot size stan­dard and was there­fore pro­hib­it­ed by the pro­vi­sions under the WLEP.

Issues raised by the Court’s Decision

We are aware that Appli­cants and Con­sent Author­i­ties have pre­vi­ous­ly inter­pret­ed clause 4.1(4) to mean that clause 4.1 did not apply to stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion. This deci­sion is con­trary to that approach. 

It is unclear how the Court might inter­pret a sit­u­a­tion where there was a pro­pos­al to stra­ta sub­di­vide a dual occu­pan­cy, where the indi­vid­ual lot sizes met the min­i­mum lot size cri­te­ria, but a com­mon lot for the stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion did not. 

Some LEPs have spe­cif­ic pro­vi­sions that per­mit stra­ta sub­di­vi­sion of dual occu­pan­cies and mul­ti dwelling hous­ing. These pro­vi­sions should be con­sid­ered in light of the Court’s inter­pre­ta­tion of clause 4.1(4) in Long­bow.

This deci­sion has impli­ca­tions for many Appli­cants and Con­sent Author­i­ties. We will watch this space and pro­vide you with any updates.